young soybean plant
BETTER START: Cool, wet weather delayed planting and favored slugs in 2017. Those slugs thinned stands in the Soybean Watch field. This year soybeans were planted May 5 into good soil conditions.

Soybean Watch ’18 gets head start compared to 2017

Soybean Watch: A wider planting window allows the operator to plant soybeans a month earlier this year.

The Soybean Watch project is in its second year. You will get weekly reports on this website and a monthly report in your magazine until harvest is over. The goal is that by monitoring this field in central Indiana closely, it might provide tips for what you should be looking for in your soybean fields as the season unfolds.

It already promises to be a much different season than last year. In 2017, heavy rains and cool soils prevented planting until June 6. This year the field was planted May 5, a full month earlier. This year’s field features similar soils but is located about 20 miles farther south than the 2017 field.

Just like last year, the field was no-tilled into cornstalks with a split-row planter on 15-inch rows. The farmer elects to go with the planter to pick up accuracy in seed drop.

Steve Gauck, a sales agronomist for Beck’s, Atlanta, Ind., will help observe and track progress of the field all year. Once soybean plants are larger, he will use a drone to get a view of the field from the air. Beck’s is the sponsor of Soybean Watch ’18.

The Soybean Watch ’17 field still made 50 bushels per acre, despite the late start, a 6-inch rain event during the first week of July, slug issues and weed pressure in spots since spraying was also delayed. Harvest was completed the day after Thanksgiving, again due to rain delays.

Different year
Gauck notes that every year is different. With a month jump in planting date, and planting within an ideal window for optimal yields, this year is off to a good start. The good news is that it’s early, and soybeans are planted. The bad news is that it’s early, so many things can still happen — not all of which are good.

Last year, slugs in late June thinned stands to just over 80,000 plants per acre in the Soybean Watch field. Gauck notes they were much worse in some other areas and forced replanting in some cases.

“You can’t detect them with a windshield survey,” he says. “You have to walk the field and scout.

“What was unusual last year was how long they persisted into the season,” he notes. “Normally by early June, it’s warm enough that they move deeper and don’t bother the crop.”

Instead, Gauck found not only slug damage, but also live slugs during the last week of June. In fact, although it was no longer damaging the plant, he found a slug in the field during the last week of July. That’s nearly unheard of, he says.

He suspects cool, wet weather gave slugs an edge last year. If it’s not cool and wet when crops are small this year, slugs may not be an issue at all. They’re still worth scouting for, however.

“Keep an eye out as you go out to make early stand counts and look for other issues,” Gauck advises.

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